The Meridian Star
For a moment Tuesday afternoon, members of the Clarkdale community were able to sit back and smile, as their home-town Clarkdale Bulldogs rolled past Pisgah 13-1 on the softball diamond to advance to the third round of the 3A state playoffs.
Following the death of Clarkdale student Dylan Mabry on Friday, softball coach Britt Bennett said the game held a special meaning, as the Bulldogs will now be playing with Mabry in mind for the remainder of the year.
“We are thinking about the Mabry family,” Bennett said. “The kids were playing for him today. Dylan was a competitive kid. If he was down here with us, he'd want us to compete and do our best.”
The Bulldogs did just that.
Clarkdale, who played the visitor role at its home field, got into early trouble in the bottom of the second inning when Pisgah's Katy Cox hit a RBI single to center to give the Dragons an early 1-0 lead. However, Clarkdale starting pitcher Molly McLeod limited the damage to just the run. After allowing a walk to the Pisgah's Sarah Cole, McLeod struck out Emily Nelson and Olivia Lampton to end the inning. McLeod went all six innings for the Bulldogs, striking out six batters and only allowing two hits to earn the win.
“She has been battling a little bit,” Bennett said of McLeod. “She has a little bit of a rib injury, and she was battling that today. Whenever she got into a little bit of a jam, she got right out of it.
“The defense played really well behind her. I don't think we had but one error today. That's a big improvement too from the beginning of the year.”
The Bulldog bats would take over from there. MaKayla Roberts beat out an infield single to lead off the top of the third inning for the Bulldogs. After a fielder's choice by McLeod moved Roberts to second base, Kristen Mitchell knocked in Clarkdale's first run with an RBI single to tie the game at 1-1. The next at bat, Heather Harwell followed suit, ripping an RBI double to left to score McLeod. Clarkdale would get another run in the inning before getting three more in the fourth and fifth and four runs in the sixth to cruise to an easy victory. Mitchell led the Bulldogs at the plate, going 4-for-5 with five RBIs and a double. Roberts, Molly McLoud, Ashley McLoud and Aubree McWilliams all had multiple hits for the Bulldogs, as every batter in the Clarkdale staring lineup collected a hit on the day.
“The first game of this series we got a lot of hits, but we couldn't put them together,” Bennett said. “Today we put them together. We got a lot of two-out hits with people on base, and that was key.”
Clarkdale will move on to the third round of the 3A state playoffs on Thursday were the Bulldogs will be pitted up against arch rival Enterprise with a trip to South State on the line.
“Hayleigh Harper is a good pitcher,” Bennett said of the Enterprise ace. “She is probably one of the top two or three we have seen all year. It's going to be a whole different animal than what we saw in this series, but the bats are heating up. We have probably have eight at bats against her, so hopefully we will hit the ball a little better this time against them.”